May is Mental Health Month #mhm2015

The 2015 campaign’s objective is to raise awareness about the importance of addressing mental health issues early and planning a course of action that will improve overall health. Employers can leverage the national campaign’s messages and materials to launch their own campaign to improve employees’ health and well being. A healthier and more productive work environment is the goal.

Employers frequently refer to employees as their company’s greatest asset. Promoting mental health in the workplace is as important as promoting physical health. And with the Affordable Care Act’s implementation, it is now legally required that employers offer insurance that provides similar levels of coverage for physical and mental illness.

It has long been known that expenses related to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety cost employers approximately $100 billion annually. Those costs show up in absenteeism, decreased productivity and additional health care expense. Yet many employers have been slow to promote mental health as an important component of benefits and wellness programs.

There are several ways an organization can take advantage of the annual campaign and promote May is Mental Health Month in the workplace.

Encourage a Mentally Healthy Work Environment

Given the amount of time employees spend at work, fostering mental health wellness is particularly effective in the workplace. Launching a highly visible awareness campaign during the month of May will also help reduce the stigma that is associated with mental illness and prevents people from seeking treatment.

Holding wellness fairs focused on both physical and mental health, encouraging exercise and yoga classes and introducing mindfulness meditation are ways to reduce stress at work and educate employees about the importance of their mental health.

Offer Screenings for Mental Health Risks

Due to the stigma associated with mental illness, many people suffer without seeking professional help. This is particularly sad because most mental illnesses are treatable. An easy way for employers to help is to provide screening tools to identify potential risks and symptoms. Screenings can be provided by local mental health professionals, Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) or through free online screening tools.

Connect Employees with Services

Almost half of Americans will meet the criteria for a diagnosed mental health disease sometime in their adult life. Identifying symptoms early and engaging with mental health professionals for treatment changes lives for the better and that translates into a healthier and more productive work environment.

Employers are well positioned to refer employees to providers due to associations already in place with insurance carriers, EAPs, wellness and other health care vendors.

Improving mental health in the workplace is a win-win for organizations and employees.

Mental Health America’s website has a toolkit to help organizations conduct awareness activities. The toolkit includes fact sheets, key messages and sample communications. The website also has a link to a free online screening tool for four common mental health conditions: depression, anxiety, bipolar and PTSD.

Mental Health America (MHA) – founded in 1909 – is the nation’s leading community-based non-profit dedicated to helping all Americans achieve wellness by living mentally healthier lives.

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Noma Bruton

Bio: Noma Bruton is an HR expert in the banking industry and currently serves as Chief Human Resources Officer of Pacific Mercantile Bank in Costa Mesa, CA. She is passionate about improving mental health in the workplace and the prevention of suicide. Noma is the author of the Sagacity | HR blog. Connect with Noma.


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